by Mary Lou Hentges
(Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the Blind Missourian, the newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri.
The author, Mary Lou Hentges, became blind just as she and her husband, Clete, were anticipating retirement. Their youngest son was nearly through high school and they looked forward to much retirement activity. At first it seemed as though blindness would dash all her dreams. Today, however, she not only fulfills her earlier dreams, but she and Clete have become very active in the Columbia, Missouri chapter in the Missouri NFB affiliate. They travel widely spreading the hope and courage they found in the Federation.)
Blind people use their other senses to help them when the vision is gone. I listen for cars before crossing the street. I find that I hear many more things than my husband does. That's because I have learned to use my ears. My hands can tell me a lot too. Touch is something I learned to use. I have learned that I can smell when the chicken or other things that I am frying, needs to be turned over. The sound of the sizzle and the smell tell me. All of these things sound almost impossible, I know, but after awhile they came to me naturally. If I become frustrated trying to do something, I just quit, walk away from it and come back to it later.
I bought a talking clock from Radio Shack. It gives the time each hour and has a button to press to get the time during the hour. I have a small one that I carry in my purse. I also have a talking alarm clock in the bedroom.
I put a mark on the dial of my washing machine and dryer. This is marked on the setting that I use the most; the dryer is marked at thirty minutes. I have an iron that I can tell where the setting for cotton is. You can buy irons that click at each setting.
I have my electric skillets, deep fryer and oven marked at three hundred degrees and then I can judge if I need a hotter or cooler temperature for each.
I have the thermostat for the furnace marked at seventy degrees and can lower or raise the temperture.
There is a marking glue that can be bought at any good hardware store made especially for this purpose. My husband used a small piece of a flat toothpick and glued it to the dial for my washer and dryer. This works well for me. When baking, I pull the rack out of the oven several inches and then put my finger on the top of the cookies to see if they are done. You may burn your fingers at first, but you will soon learn to feel the heat and can tell where to put your finger.
I have my recipes and telephone numbers recorded on seperate tapes. I keep a blank tape in the recorder just in case I need to record a new telephone number or a message.
When pouring coffee, water, or other juices I put my thumb on the edge and down a little bit into the cup or glass to tell when I have poured enough. I did this slowly at first but soon got the hang of it without any problem. I use this also when pouring milk into a bowl of cereal.
When ironing I place the garment over the ironing board and then smooth it with my hand before starting to iron. This keeps me from ironing wrinkles in the garment. This too, came easy and fast after a few times.
I have my husband pin his socks together after he takes them off, for the laundry. Some people use round plastic cafe curtain rings. If he doesn't do this, I put his socks in a pile when I take them out of the dryer and he can match them and fold them himself. He has a choice.
I found that I had a hard time with my clothes and found some things to do that will help a lot. I keep a suit and the blouse to go with it hanging together. If there are more blouses that match the suit, they should be hanging with the suit also. I do slacks and sweaters this way too. My shoes are kept on a rack in pairs. There is always something a little different about each pair that lets me know the difference in each pair. This also works for blouses. There is usually a difference in the sleeves, collar, placket, or buttons that will identify one blouse from the other.
The thing that I find the hardest to manage is to know if my hose have a runner. I usually ask my husband. The good ones I fold and the ones with a runner (that I wear under slacks) I tie into a knot.
Singer Sewing Company sells self threading needles that I use. I sew on buttons and repair rips or tears and hem my slacks. This seems to be impossible, but after a few tries you can do it easily. They also have self-threading needles for sewing machines. I have made a few garments, but it was frustrating and not fun anymore. So I watch the sales and buy my clothes. I find that the clerks in the dress shops are very helpful and willing to please. I have someone to go with me when I go to the discount stores where there are no clerks.
I have several white canes that I use. Each is a different length. I have a folding telescope cane which I use for church and restaurants. It folds nicely and fits into my purse. I have one two inches longer and another that comes to my shoulders. The longer the cane, the faster I can walk. If the cane is too short I cannot find things in my way until I am upon them, it would be easy to fall over something if the cane is too short. These canes are fiber glass and light to the touch. I was told when I got mine that the cane would "talk" to me after awhile and really it does, got mine from the National Federation of the Blind. Our sate has a state agency for the blind which can be helpful. Each state has a Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. This library has all their books either on cassettes, records, or in Braille. They also furnish the cassette and record player free of charge. The cassettes and records are also sent through the Post Office free of charge. The local library should have an application for this service. The library will send a catalog listing titles of books that are available. I have found this service quite useful.
I joined the National Federation of the Blind and found it very helpful to be with other blind people. They can do so much for themselves and it makes me want to do just as well as they do. The NFB is blind people working with the blind and helping each other in many ways. There are other organizations for the blind but they are, for the most part, sighted people telling the blind what they need, don't need, and what they can and cannot do.
Blind people are not hiding in the closet like they were years ago. We are out there, doing the same things as sighted people. I have always been an independent person and I feel good about myself. My motto is: Don't give up, just keep on trying.
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